AEMI Case Study:

Tropical Cyclone Oswald formed in the Gulf of Carpentaria on 21 January. It made landfall at night between Kowanyama,and Pormpuraaw on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula, as a weak category one system with winds up to 100 km per hour. The following morning, as the cyclone moved inland it was downgraded to a tropical low system. The low moved toward the east coast, near Cooktown on 23 January and then tracked slowly to the south-south-east just inland from the coast, impacting areas near Townsville on 24 January. The weather system stalled over the St. Lawrence-Rockhampton area on the 25th and 26th, and then tracked south to near Dalby west of Brisbane on the 28th, finally accelerating in a southerly direction eventually moving offshore south of Sydney on the 29th.

The ex-tropical cyclone brought with it a heavy monsoonal rainfall system that lasted for approximately one week. Most of the eastern areas of Queensland, and the coast of New South Wales ending in the Wollongong area experienced very heavy rainfall during the period from 22 to 29 January 2013. On 25 January areas around Rockhampton recorded rainfall for a 24 hour period in excess of 300 mm. Rainfall for the areas between Rockhampton and Bundaberg alone were heavy enough to break the January monthly rainfall records. On 28 January the most extreme daily rainfall for the week occurred over the Gold Coast Hinterland and New South Wales border catchment and the edge of the Brisbane river catchment where rainfall for a 24 hour period was in excess of 700 mm both hitting record levels. The Queensland State Emergency Service received 1800 calls for help in 24 hours on the 28 January, mostly in the south-east areas of the state.

Significant rainfall / flood totals include:

• Rockhampton January daily rainfall record of 349 mm - previous record set 1896 at 267.5 mm.
• Maryborough January rainfall record of 258.8 mm - previous record set 1893 at 250.7 mm.
• Yeppoon 289 mm daily rainfall total.
• Ingham and Tully, had near 1000 mm of rain in 3 days.
• Burnett river at Bundaberg hit a record level of 9.3 m.
• Bremer river peaked at 13.9 m lower than the predicted 15 m.
• Brisbane river at peaked at 2 m, below the predicted level of 2.6 m.
• The Clarence River at Grafton peaked at 8.09 m -just below the flood levee wall.
• Laidley creek had a record flood height of 9.26 m on 28 January (the previous record was set in January 2011 at 8.85 m).

Six people were killed due to the extreme weather over the course of the week. Thousands were forced to evacuate, 2000 people were isolated by floodwaters for some days requiring emergency supply drops. Approximately 40 water rescues took place by State Emergency Service volunteers, including two women and a toddler who were airlifted from the back of a vehicle to safety.

Key infrastructure was damaged and destroyed, estimated to cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The rail service was closed between Cairns and Townsville, the Weipa port shut down for several days, airlines cancelled many domestic flights between New South Wales and Queensland, travellers were stranded as they tried to return home after the long weekend, 200 schools were closed on the first day of school for the year and the worst ever power outages occurred in Queensland affecting 283,000 properties.

Heavy rainfall was accompanied by strong winds at many sites with wind gusts in excess of 100 km per hour, coastal storm surges and big waves, as well as a number of tornadoes, hitting particularly in the Bundaberg area. On Sunday 27 January the system moved south impacting Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast with damaging to destructive winds, torrential rain, dangerous surf and tidal inundation for a 24 hour period. Winds reached 131 km per hour at Cape Byron. While the Lockyer Creek, Bremer River and the Brisbane River flooded, impacts in Brisbane were not a severe as the 2011 floods. There were no reports of homes with water above floor level in Brisbane. Residents were told to conserve water when the Mt Crosby water treatment plant was shut down owing to turbidity in the Brisbane River. Water was released from the Wivenhoe dam from 91per cent to 88 per cent to cope with flood waters. Water was also released from North Pine Dam and Somerset Dam.

Torrential rainfall and flooding also occurred in northern New South Wales particularly near Lismore and Grafton where evacuations occurred, approximately 2000 in total. The New South Wales State Emergency Service attended to over 2900 calls for assistance, most in the north of the state and the Fire and Rescue Service helicopter evacuated campers stranded near Grafton. Eight New South Wales river systems had flood warnings in place. Coastal erosion of beaches was evidenced in these regions along with sea foam covering some roads and parks on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts.

Overall, Bundaberg was the worst affected city with 2000 homes and 200 businesses inundated with flood water. The Burnett river was running at approximately 70 km per hour and threatened to sweep houses away. Despite a mandatory evacuation order issued to 5000 residents, an emergency airlift was the only option for some stranded residents. Eighteen helicopters were utilised in a rescue effort evacuating more than 1000 people trapped by flood waters in North Bundaberg and other most-at-risk areas to at least nine evacuation centres which was a record evacuation effort in Australia. The Bundaberg hospital was also evacuated and approximately 130 patients were transferred to hospitals in Brisbane.

On 31 January, in North Bundaberg, approximately 7000 residents were forced out of their homes and not allowed to return until they were checked and declared safe. Defence personnel, 180 in total, went house to house within an exclusion zone, conducting search and rescue operations. Defence personnel also helped to repair damaged infrastructure and clean people's homes as part of the initial recovery operation.

Financial assistance and grants were made available to eligible Queensland flood victims, including:

• Queensland Floods Appeal 2013 payments
• Emergent Assistance Grant
• Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment (AGDRP)
• Essential Services Safety and Reconnection Grant.

The Queensland government also provided financial help and support services to business owners and primary producers such as low interest loans and clean up and recovery grants. Other assistance included freight subsidies, Individual Disaster Stricken Property (IDSP) declarations and leasehold rent relief.

The Federal Attorney-General announced flood and storm victims, employees, small business persons and farmers could apply for the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payments.

New South Wales January 2013

• claims granted 13,195
• scheduled dollars to be paid $ $15,292,600

Queensland January 2013

• claims granted 112,556
• scheduled dollars to be paid $ $131,013,300

Natural disaster relief and recovery arrangements were provided as a joint commonwealth and state / territory government initiative for local government areas.

The Insurance Council of Australia estimated the January 2013 preliminary cost at $101 million for New South Wales and $742 million for Queensland.

More information will be provided as it becomes available.